is a class of word that modifies a noun or phrase to give more information. Therefore, we call adjectives describing
words. They tell us more information about a noun or idea. Examples of adjectives are words like blue, orange, happy, five, tall, this, my, bad and so on…
Amazingly, this will be our first proper look at adjectives
here on Spectrum Monkey. We have already mentioned them in passing with our look at numbers. Numbers are, after all, a type of adjective. Today then, we will take a closer look at adjectives
and really expand our knowledge of this essential grammatical class. Agreement
Before we look at the different types of adjective, let’s remind ourselves of the concept of agreement.
If we remember back to our introduction to nouns. There we learnt that in the Spanish language nouns typically are assigned a gender. Some words are deemed either masculine or feminine and others can be both (usually taking a masculine or feminine form, although some have a gender common form). Equally, nouns can be described either in the singular or the plural. We learnt then that both articles
must “agree” with the gender and plurality of the noun they accompany.
By “agree” we mean, if the noun in question is say, in a masculine plural form, then the adjective associated with it must also be in a masculine plural form. Let’s see some examples:
|Spanish ||Meaning ||Agreement |
|“el niño alto” ||the tall boy || |
|“la niña alta” ||the tall girl || |
|“los niños altos” ||the tall boys/children || |
|“las niñas altas” ||the tall girls || |
In English adjectives almost never change form. In the above example the word “tall” remains the same, no matter which noun it accompanies. Yet as we can see, all four Spanish examples use a different form of adjective.
Remember: In Spanish when we are describing a mixture of both masculine and feminine nouns, we use the masculine plural form. Even if there are 99 girls and just 1 boy, we still use the masculine plural.
Learning up to four versions of each adjective might seem like quite a daunting prospect. However, by learning a few simple rules, we are generally able to use the singular masculine form as a starting point and modify this to either become feminine, plural or both. Let’s find out how: Forming feminine adjectives
There are two main rules for forming feminine adjectives based on the masculine version:
1. Masculine adjectives that end in -o
can be made feminine by changing the -o
into an -a.
2. Typically, all other masculine adjectives that end in any other letter than -o
DO NOT change their form when made feminine.
Of course, there are a few exceptions to the above two rules. For instance, when describing nationalities that end in a consonant, we append an -a
to the end of the masculine form to create the feminine version.
Equally for some masculine adjectives that end in -or
we append an a
so that the feminine form ends in -ora.
This exception does not apply to comparative adjectives such as “mejor” (better) or “peor” (worse) which remain unchanged in the feminine.
Also, masculine adjectives ending in -án, -ín
each change to end in -ana, -ina
respectively in the feminine.
|masculine ||feminine ||change |
|“el niño alto” (the tall boy) ||“la niña alta” (the tall girl) ||-o to -a |
|“vino blanco” (white vine) ||“la casa blanca” (the white house) ||-o to -a |
|“el coche verde” (the green car) ||“la moto verde” (the green motorbike) ||none |
|“el chico joven” (the young boy) ||“la cicha joven” (the young girl) ||none |
|“el soldado iraquí” (the Iraqi soldier) ||“la guerra iraquí” (the Iraqi war) ||none |
|“el chiste inglés” (the English joke) ||“la broma inglesa” (the English joke) ||append -a |
|“el idioma español” (the Spanish language) ||“la lengua española” (the Spanish language) ||append -a |
|“el equipo ganador” (the winning team) ||“la persona ganadora” (the winning person) ||-or to -ora |
|“el objeto chiquitín” (the tiny object) ||“la cosa chiquitina” (the tiny thing) ||-ín to -ina |
Notice that in English when nationalities are used as adjectives they start with a capital letter, whereas in Spanish they do not. Forming plural adjectives
Forming plural adjectives based on the singular form is relatively straightforward as we only need to follow two rules and one spelling exception:
1. We simply append a -s
to any singular adjective ending in a vowel to create the plural form.
2. For singular adjectives ending in a consonant we append -es
to form the plural version.
The exception to rule 2 is when the singular ends in -z
, then we change the ending to become -ces.
Short form adjectives
|singluar ||plural ||change |
|“el niño alto” (the tall boy) ||“los niños altos” (the tall boys) ||append -s |
|“la casa grande” (the big house) ||“las casas grandes” (the big houses) ||append -s |
|“la ruta fácil” (the easy route) ||“las rutas fáciles” (the easy routes) ||append -es |
|“ese coche francés” (that French car) ||“esos coches franceses” (those French cars) ||append -es |
|“un tiempo feliz” (a happy time) ||“tiempos felices” (happy times) ||-z to -ces |
There are several Spanish adjectives that have shortened forms when they precede certain nouns. We will look at adjective placement in more detail another time. But very briefly, many types of adjective will typically follow the noun. However, there are times, particularly with numbers, demonstrative, possessive and indeed shortened adjectives, whereby they can and should precede the noun.
“¡Espero que tengas un buen
día!” (I hope you have a good
Here is a list of some common short form adjectives:
|Original adjective ||Short form adjective ||Meaning |
|bueno ||buen ||good |
|malo ||mal ||bad |
|ciento ||cien ||one hundred |
|uno ||un ||one / a |
|primero ||primer ||first |
|tercero ||tercer ||third |
|grande ||gran ||big |
|santo ||san ||saint |
|alguno ||algún ||some |
|ninguno ||ningún ||none |
|cualquiera ||cualquier ||any / whatever |
There are a small number of adjectives that DO NOT follow the normal rules of agreement. Invariable adjectives are those whose form never change. Numbers are a great example this. Only the numbers ending in 1 and the hundreds (200 to 900) agree, whereas the rest do not change their form at all.
Another example of an invariable adjective is the indefinite adjective “cada” meaning each
. This too does not change form to agree. We will look at indefinite adjectives in greater detail next time.
Colours are probably the most common examples of invariable adjectives. Certainly, there are many colours that do and should agree. However, there some colours that do not. Colours like “naranja” (orange), “rosa” (rose) and any two-word colour such as “azul marino” (navy-blue) do not agree.
Today there are so many different nouns that can be used to describe a colour, “oro” (gold), “mostaza” (mustard), “naranja” (orange), “café” (coffee), cereza (cherry) etc. The important thing to notice is that they are all things as well as potentially a colour. Thus, when we use a noun as an adjective then statements like “Los pantalones de color de mostaza” (the mustard colour trousers) can become “los pantalones mostaza” (the mustard trousers) and the thing
doesn´t really have to agree. It is for this reason colours like “blanco” (white) or “negra” (black) which are not actual things still observe agreement, yet colours like “naranja” (orange) are considered invariable adjectives and thus do not. Conclusion | En conclusión
Today we have mainly focused on how to form adjectives with a timely reminder about gender and plurality agreement. Next time we will take a closer look at the different types of adjectives that exist in the Spanish language and talk more about word placement within a complete sentence.